Watch: A Freaky Underwater Fantasy, Made With Low-Tech Effects

The award-winning short Solipsist is proof that you don’t need CGI to show viewers an entirely new world.

Solipsist, a 10-minute experimental work by Los Angeles filmmaker Andrew Huang, is a visual riff on the philosophical concept of solipsism, or the idea that the only thing we can truly be sure of is the existence of our own minds. Actually, it’s an exploration of the opposite idea–where solipsism is concerned with isolation, Huang’s film shows fantastical scenes of minds and bodies merging and melding together. And what exactly does that look like? A strange strain of alien coral engulfing human bodies whole, among other things.


The film, which won a prize for Best Experimental work at last year’s Slamdance film festival, is arresting and awe-inspiring and more than a little bit unsettling. It’s comprised of three wordless sections which all explore that central idea of metaphysical connectedness in various ways. In the first (and freakiest) part, we watch as a beautiful, insatiable coral-like thing consumes two silent humans; in the next, we see other sorts of strange underwater creatures linking up to form a greater being, like a sort of deep-sea rat king.

If you’re already wary of the ocean, these images might be hard to shake. Thankfully, they’re purely a product of Huang’s imagination (which isn’t to say you shouldn’t be afraid of the ocean, just saying). But what you see in the film is real, in a sense. While the final work involved a massive amount of compositing in post-production, the creatures themselves were physical constructions, pieced together with a variety of materials and brought to life with some clever photographic effects. In an email to Short of the Week, Huang explained the process:

The only real CG in the film are the tendrils and tentacles that cover the girls’ faces in the first scene. We used a lot of footage reversal effects to create the effect of the girls’ wardrobe growing out over them. The underwater scenes were shot in a 100 [gallon] fishtank. We puppeted the underwater creatures with rods. They were made from a combo of fish bait/tackle, feathers, and sculpey. By the end of the shoot they were completely mangled.

Mangled. Good. Let’s hope they stay that way.

See more of Huang’s gorgeous, fantastical work on his site.